Michael Travis Head, now 36, was only 16 years old when he shot and killed his father and stepmother in their Rock Stand home in east Alabama in August 2002. It was the most gruesome death scene the sheriff at the time said he ever saw in his 35-year career in law enforcement. However, for Head, he said it was the ending of an even more tragic life he said he had been living for years.
Now 36, Head told 1819 News in an interview from prison that he took the lives of his father, 43-year-old Michael Leon Head, and his stepmother, 45-year-old Vickie Freeman Head, after years of sexual and physical abuse from multiple people. Head claims that while living with his father, Michael, and his stepmom, Vickie, he was raped multiple times by his father and beaten. He said he was also forced to take part in animal abuse as a teenager. In one account, Travis claimed his dad shot and killed nine puppies, then told him, "This is what we do to useless things."
“I just want people to know I’m not a monster,” Head explained. “I did bad things, and I admit that. I wish it wouldn’t have happened. I’ve been incarcerated for being a victim most of my life. The only thing that anyone cares about is what I did in retaliation, not what was done to me to push me to that point.”
Although Head’s accounts of abuse are detailed, no proof of the allegations ever came out in court. The Randolph County sheriff at the time, Jeff Fuller, told 1819 News he was never made aware of the abuse despite reports from teachers who claim they contacted DHR.
Head said it all started as a young child. For years, he was in the custody of his mother, who moved multiple times and experienced multiple abusive relationships.
“I went to about 19 different schools and lived in 24 different houses probably by the age of 13,” said Head.
As a young child, he claimed he was subjected to sexual escapades and abuse at the hands of family members and a babysitter. He also claims his father was physically and sexually abusive. Head’s biological mother, Darlene Schultz, admits Head was exposed to drugs and alcohol and multiple abusive men.
“I was in survival mode,” said Schultz. “I was molested and raped as a child, so I was dealing with my own stuff already. Not excusing for what I done. I was just in survival mode. I allowed men to treat me and my kids like that. Michael was one of them, and he did that until I ran like a scolded dog. I got on a Greyhound bus with my two kids and ran like a scolded dog.”
Schultz said Head was put into psychiatric care at a very young age because of what he had been through. She said her son was prescribed medications for depression, migraines and mood changes.
During his younger years, his mother dated multiple men, and Head said more abuse ensued. When he got a little older, he decided to seek stability and move in with his father. That was the start of what Head described as "another living nightmare" full of physical and sexual abuse.
At one point, Head said he tried to escape the home in the middle of the night, but his father caught him and threatened to kill him with a pistol. Finally, after drinking with a friend one night, Head said he decided to get out of the situation by committing suicide.
"I had been contemplating suicide for quite a while," Head said. "I even put my initials on that bullet because it was meant for me. I just walked out that night and sat on the back steps, and I stuck that gun under my chin, and I wanted to pull that trigger so bad. I just sat there. I was drunk, I mean, I was bad drunk, but I just kept sitting there replaying it all through my mind."
But instead of pulling the trigger, Head went back inside the house, where he saw his father and shot him.
"I told myself, 'This is the only way that it's going to end,' and then it happened," Head remembered. "From that point forward, I sort of disassociated."
After he fired the shot at his father, Head's stepmother entered the room, and he pulled the trigger again. However, he said he never wanted to target her.
"She was never even a thought in the process," Head remembered about Vickie Head. "I mean, she wasn't completely innocent, but I wasn't chasing her, and I wasn't after her."
After the killings, Head left the house and stayed with a friend. He was gone for a week, and in the meantime, the sheriff's office discovered the bodies still inside the house.
"It was nasty," Fuller explained. "Very nasty because the dogs had been consuming the victims. They were locked in the house with the victims, so you can imagine how grotesque it was. It was the most gruesome scene I ever saw, but it wasn't because of what he did to them but because of what happened to the bodies, the time and the dog situation."
Investigators were unsure at first if Head was a suspect or a victim. Fuller said investigators finally caught up with Head, and he was with a girl. He surrendered and told the sheriff's office what happened.
"When I started talking to them, I thought they were going to understand," Head added. "I thought the justice system was going to understand."
The sheriff's office concluded Head shot his parents because his father wouldn't allow him to go to the girl's house. He was officially charged with two counts of murder.
Head's sister Missy Stitcher said she believes her brother and wishes he would've been understood because their dad also abused her.
"I know who my father was, and he was very good at convincing everyone that he was a saint, but really he was a demon," said Stitcher. "And the things he did to Travis, he did to me. It was swept under the rug. If they would've just went public with what happened to me, Travis would've never gone through what he went through. I wish it would've been me. I can't tell you how many times I've dreamed of doing what Travis did."
"I hate that it had to happen, period," Head said of his sister's comments. "I understand the pain that she feels, but my sister has a family, kids, a life. I mean, I'm sitting here since 16, and they want to hold me the rest of my life. I'll never have a life of my own, so I'm glad she can have hers."
Being in a small town, the double murder didn't get much news coverage. Not a lot of people were aware of the case as it made its way through the court system. Head was appointed a public defender. His first trial ended in a mistrial. As both the prosecution and the defense prepared for a second trial, Head continued to sit in the Randolph County Jail. Finally, in 2007, it was time for a second trial. Head's family members, who supported him, told him to fight the charges because they felt a jury would understand the pain he endured if the members of the jury heard all accounts.
"I had been a victim of that man for a long time," said Stitcher. "I wanted to tell them what I had been through and make them see what that disgusting human did to me. The whole family knew, and I wanted the whole world to know, but nobody cared, they just wanted to throw my brother away like he was trash and he was just a child."
But Stitcher never got to tell her story in defense of her brother. Before the second trial could start, Head signed a plea deal at the urging of his attorney. He claims he was misled into thinking it was what his family wanted. Also, at his young age, Head said he couldn't fully understand what he was signing.
"The way it's written, it looks like you make parole in 20 years," said Head. "I asked if the life sentences would be consecutive, and they told me one life sentence is just like 100 life sentences."
At this point, Head said he feels he has been failed by the system time after time. Now he just wants a chance at parole as he was led to believe he would get.
"They told me after 15 years I would be considered for parole," he said. "I did 15, then they said 20. Now I've done 20 with jail credit, and I was told 34. What's going to happen if I don't get a chance by then? I'll be 50."
He works as a lead on the floor in a furniture shop at Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County. He earned his GED and finished at the top of his class in air conditioning and refrigeration. Living in a faith dorm, Head said he teaches an orientation class that he uses as a way to teach people how to help themselves.
"Sometimes a person just needs someone to listen," Head said. "If I can just help one person get out of their bad situation and just make a difference, I can show others as well as myself that the entire world is not dark."
While he isn't sure what he would do or how he would succeed in the free world since he has been in prison all of his adult life, Head said he wants to be heard and wants to be given a chance. Above all, he said, despite the cause of his pain. He said he still loves.
"I still love my dad," Head said. "I do. I know that stuff happened, and I'm hurt because everybody in my whole life has hurt me. So, I kind of equate that if someone stabs me in the back or something goes wrong, it just proves that you love me because that's all I've ever known. If you don't hurt me, you don't love me. Even the people in school that bullied me, I don't hate them, and I would never wish anything bad on them. I have had a lot of time to sit and think about all of this because this is where I grew up. But it just hasn't stopped me from loving them."
Michael and Vickie Head were never charged with abuse of Michael Travis Head in Randolph County. Supporters of the couple say they were loving people who are now unable to tell their side of the story.
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